A few weeks ago, over seven area evangelical churches met together for a night of worship and prayer. I pray with six other pastors in our area every Wednesday and we have committed to support, encourage, and motivate one another to gospel unity in Northeastern Colorado. This community worship service was birthed out of our relationship as pastors in order to model this unity and encouragement that we experience ourselves to overflow to our respective churches.
The theme of the evening was joyful obedience to the Great Commission as evidenced in Jesus words in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What is the main verb in this passage? It starts with “go” and in our English translations we may think that “going” is the main thing we are to do. Go out! Get going! Go door-to-door! GO! “Go” is NOT the main verb. It is actually what is called a participle or a modifier of the main verb. Usually participles end with “ing.” It really should be translated “as you are going.” So Jesus assumes that we are already going. Jesus assumes that we would be making disciples in our daily lives as we go. We are commanded to make disciples in the natural ebb and flow of our lives within our current relationships.
No in fact, “make disciples” is the main verb in this sentence. It is the primary command. Jesus tells us that we have fallen short of the mandate if we don’t make a disciple. There are two other participles that connect to the primary command. They are “baptizing and teaching.”
We then must ask the question, what is a disciple? If we are called to make one then we need to know what one is. The first qualifier is that a disciple is a believer who has made his or her profession in Christ public through the waters of baptism. This is a person who has been immersed under the water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Baptism does not save you, but it is a beautiful symbol of how God has saved you by grace. It symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as well as it illustrates the death of our old life in sin whereby God has raised us to new life in Christ. If you have not followed Jesus in believer’s baptism by immersion I encourage you to make an appointment with your pastor to discuss this in more detail.
But the second qualifier is that we are to be teaching believers. But it doesn’t end there. Notice how specific Jesus was in His wording. We are to teach them to observe or obey all that Jesus commanded. So it’s not just teaching for information, but teaching for transformation. This involves more than just dumping Bible trivia into our heads so that we are full of knowledge. Instead it involves immersing ourselves in God’s Words so that it takes root in our lives and translates to active obedience. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” One of the crucial roles of the church is to facilitate the spiritual growth of believers to grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Craig Blomberg asserts, “The verb ‘make disciples’ also commands a kind of evangelism that does not stop after someone makes a profession of faith. The first of these (baptizing) will be a once-for-all, decisive initiation into Christian community. The second (teaching them obedience) proves a perennially incomplete, life-long task.”
Are you a disciple of Jesus? Have you trusted Him alone to forgive you of your sins? Are you committed to making disciples yourself? Are you part of a Great Commission church? I pray that all of the Bible-believing churches in Northeastern Colorado and around the world remain firmly committed to obeying Jesus’ Great Commission.
Craig Blomberg, Matthew, New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1992), 431.